Saturday, 29 October 2011


3rd Hong Kong International Piano Competition Finals

Day 1 / Friday (28 October 2011) Part 2


Giuseppe Andaloro, winner of multiple first prizes, would have performed at the First Hong Kong Competition in 2005, but had pulled out last minute having won First Prize at the Busoni Competition in Bolzano the week before. Under the HK competition’s new rules which forbid participation in other competitions three months before or after, he would have been disqualified and barred instead. Anyway, at 29 this would be a last hurrah.

I had heard him perform in 2002, when he made a big impression winning 1st prize in the London International Piano Competition. In Hong Kong, he did not disappoint. First he performed the Blake work from memory, which immediately gave positive vibes. His was a more nuanced performance, perhaps a little slower than Gasanov’s but far more ruminative. Displaying more shades of colour, it opened more possibilities for imagination. This was not a merely memorised Speech, but one imbued with much thought, probing and ultimately revealing a slew of emotions. Even the tintinnabulation dazzled, and with a more volatile finish, had a sense of improvisation. I am beginning to love this work even more.

What can I say about Andaloro’s view of Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto? For starters, it was a more polished outing for both piano and orchestra than Gasanov’s Tchaik One. And he does not merely play the notes, but personalises them. The opening chords were taken with a broad and expansive view (but never protracted, such as in Lang Lang’s case), and this was the tenor of his interpretation. Melancholia seemed paramount in his reading, rather unusual coming from an Italian (brooding being a Slavic preoccupation by birth right), which came out from slow boil to an ecstatic climax of crashing chords. Andaloro seems completely at ease with himself, and that greatly steadied the ship.

The slow movement was simply beautiful with pianist happy to play the accompanying role for the splendid flute and clarinet solos to shine. Here much of the piano’s melodic line is simple, two hands playing the exactly the same notes an octave apart. Andaloro does not gild the lily but lets the music speak for itself. And one could have been lulled to terminal stupor if not for his slow but steadfast build-up and eventual release, the cadenza coming as a spontaneous outburst of raw emotion. Lovely strings concluded this most wondrous of reveries.

In the finale, Andaloro showed he knew the true meaning of scherzando, with a playful romp which belied the thoughtfulness that coloured the big melody. Again, he was restrained in displaying heart-on-sleeve emotion, which could have gone overboard in less poised individuals. That coyness was merely a ploy, as the central tumultuous interlude was unleashed with great vehemence, one in which both pianist and orchestra were as one through every split second. All this made for totally enthralling ride, and when the big melody returned, it was to magnificent effect. Andaloro’s playing was close to faultless, which made this performance ever so memorable Rachamaninov was a master of the musical orgasm, which is why no one (except perhaps the Germans and Austrians) can get enough of this music. And Italians certainly know the meaning of amore.

My verdict: Magnificent performances of Blake and Rachmaninov from Andaloro. Have we seen the winner of this competition? But wait, there are still four more competitors to be heard!

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